Oct. 31, 2014
It was the second time this season and the fourth time in the last eight matches in which the Mids and the Bison have played a five-set match. Navy (11-9, 8-3 Patriot League) came out ahead of Bucknell (4-16, 3-9), 23-25, 25-15, 25-18, 21-25, 16-14, when the teams met earlier this season in Annapolis. Additionally, the Bison let a 2-0 lead in sets get away from them in a five-set loss at Army on Saturday.
“This was a monster win for us,” said Navy head coach Larry Bock. “We played a real gutsy match. We weren’t hitting on all cylinders across the lineup by any means, but everybody did something right at important times.”
Bucknell quickly jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the final set of the match, which led Bock to calling the first of his two available timeouts. Star Steele (Jr., Tampa, Fla.) set Rachel Fortner (Fr., Villa Hills, Ky.) for a kill coming out of the break, then Fortner dropped in an ace to pull the Mids to within one point of the Bison. Steele and Katie Sylakowski (Jr., Escondido, Calif.) promptly combined for a block to tie the score, after which the Bison called timeout.
“Star did a good job of running the offense,” said Bock, of the Mids after the timeout. “We were a little scattered up until then. She did a nice job of settling things. All we talked about in the timeout was running the offense, and coming out of it Star established the middle zones for us.”
A Bucknell attack error gave Navy a one-point lead, which quickly became two points (8-6) on a kill by Maggie Phillips (Fr., Leesburg, Va.). After a Phillips attack error sliced the margin back down to one point, kills by Sylakowski and Steele gave Navy a 10-7 advantage and led to Bucknell calling its second timeout.
The timeout worked as the Bison tallied the ensuing three points on a kill, a Navy attack error and an ace to tie the set at 10-10. Sylakowski broke the tie with a kill, then her fellow middle blocker Alex Cassel (Sr., Sandy, Utah) followed with a kill of her own to push the Mids out to a 12-10 lead. Bucknell again cut the margin in half on a kill, but Navy gained that point right back on a kill from Shelby McCool (Fr., Eugene, Ore.). Steele would set Cassel for kills on the ensuing two plays to give the set and the match to the Mids.
Offensively, Navy had six players record at least one kill in the fifth set, while defensively, four players had at least four digs with both Gaby Smith (So., Virginia Beach, Va.) and Alli Graf (So., Annapolis, Md.) snaring seven digs apiece in the frame.
The opening set played between the teams saw the score tied 13 times and the lead change hands five times. Bucknell slowly built a 20-15 lead only to see Navy tie the set at 23-23. The Mids had one opportunity to serve for the set at 25-24, but after that chance was erased the Bison served for the set at 26-25 before converting on what was their third set point.
Bucknell jumped out to a 10-6 lead early in the second set before Navy went on a 5-0 run to take an 11-10 lead. Another 5-0 run by the Mids allowed them to take a 17-14 lead, and they held at least a two-point cushion over the remainder of the set.
Navy was the team to get the better start in the third set as it quickly took an 8-2 advantage. The closest the Bison would get to the Mids in the set was four points at 10-6.
The fourth set saw Bucknell build leads of 10-4, 16-6 and 19-14 before Navy started to chip away at the deficit. The Bison still held a three-point lead at 23-20 and remained in front by two points at 24-22 when a kill by Phillips and an ace by Graf tied the set at 24-24. The teams traded sideouts for the next five points before a Bucknell block gave the Bison the set and sent the match into a decisive fifth set.
“We’re just not good right now with prosperity,” said Bock, of Navy letting its 2-1 lead in sets evaporate. “There was an odd rhythm to the match, and it was really similar to the first time we played Bucknell this year. That’s the sign of a young team.”
Navy led Bucknell in nearly every statistical category, thanks in no small part to the Mids winning the second and third sets by somewhat comfortable scores. Navy totaled 72 kills while hitting .188, dished out 67 assists, dropped in 11 aces and snared 106 digs. On the other side of the net, Bucknell accrued 45 kills and hit .135 while also tallying 4 aces and 88 digs. The Bison did hold a slight edge of 7-6 over the Mids in blocks.
Individually for Navy, the freshman Phillips posted a season-high 18 kills to lead all players in the match. Joining her with double figure kills were Cassel and Sylakowski, both of whom finished with 12 kills (and 3 blocks), and Fortner, who knocked down 11 kills while handing out 17 assists, dropping in 3 aces and grabbing 16 digs to post her second triple-double of the year.
Fortner was one of five Mids to total 10 or more digs, with libero Graf leading the team with 32. That effort ties her for second in the Navy record books for the most digs recorded in a single match (record is 35). Graf also added a match-high 4 aces to her stats sheet.
In addition to the totals of Graf and Fortner, Smith recorded 20 digs, Maeve Drummey (Jr., Silver Spring, Md.) had 11 digs and Steele, who dished out 40 assists, had 10 digs.
Bucknell was led offensively by Karen Campbell’s 15 kills and by Jordan Walker’s 10 kills. Walker added 22 digs, but that fell well short of the 37 gathered in by libero Kristen Parks.
“Bucknell was terrific tonight,” said Bock. “Parks really was a superstar for them. It was a neat match for both teams. Bucknell is not just good, they are scary good and will be for awhile.”
Navy will now travel to Bethlehem, Pa., for a Saturday afternoon (4 p.m.) match at Lehigh.
The Mids enter Saturday alone in third place in the Patriot League standings. American remains in first place with a 10-0 record, while Lehigh stands in second place with a mark of 10-2. The Mids are in third place at 8-3, while Colgate, who fell to Army tonight and for the second time this season, drops back into fourth place with a 7-4 record. The Black Knights remain in fifth place with a 7-5 record.
Only the top-four teams in the final Patriot League standings advance to the league tournament.